Longtime Latino music store in Tucson struggling amid big changes in industry

Tucson's independent Yoly's records shop in free-fall amid changes in industry overall
2013-02-16T00:00:00Z Longtime Latino music store in Tucson struggling amid big changes in industryJoseph Treviño Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

With its stacks brimming with Latino music CDs, you would think that Yoly's Music Shop is a runaway sales success.

But you would be wrong.

In fact, Yoly's may be Tucson's last independently owned Latino music record store. And like similar stores across the country and in the mainstream genre, the business is in a free-fall that has engulfed even large, national music chain stores like Ritmo Latino.

Once upon a time, Yoly's was somewhat of a Tucson staple for music lovers enchanted with popular Spanish-language music. The Jacobos, the family that owns Yoly's, once ran four record stores, including one at Tanque Verde Swap Meet.

But now, with the advent of digital downloads, the decline of CDs, the recession and Border Patrol raids on undocumented immigrants - among Yoly's' main customers, according to the family - the once-growing family business has been decimated.

Because of downsizing, the last Yoly's store moved last year from a main shopping center on South Sixth Avenue to a smaller shop in a strip mall some blocks south, at 3504 S. Sixth Ave.

Despite the odds, owner Yolanda Jacobo, who besides being a businesswoman and a self-described music lover, said her business will not go quietly into the night of CD oblivion.

"We will be here as long as God permits us," she said. "Latinos cannot live without their music. There will always be people who buy records."

The store still has customers like Jesús Paz, 36, a Tucson carpenter who is also an inveterate fan of Mexican regional music.

Be it driving his work pickup truck or listening to his audio system while winding down at home after work, Paz often plays CDs of niche recording artists like Hermanos Vega - a rising norteño and banda group from Sonora with a singer whose vocals sound like an early '90s country music crooner - or groups with albums that are hard to find on the Web.

Even when the music can be downloaded, the sound quality is just not up to the standards of a quasi-audiophile like Paz.

"It is not the same sound quality. With a CD, you give yourself the luxury of having an original album," said Paz, who has been buying CDs at Yoly's for the last 17 years. "It's like when you buy Levi's jeans - it's the real article, not a copy."

Unlike chain store music departments, Yoly's is often adorned with a mix of traditional Mexican decorations and elegant, hacienda-styled embellishments.

There, in a makeshift CD altar draped with decorative Mexican paper, the late Jenni Rivera smiles from an album cover. A few rows down, there are CDs of ballad masters from the '80s like Spanish singer Paloma San Basilio, which show that Yoly's has an impressive music collection, Paz said.

Lea Márquez-Peterson, president of Tucson's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said she is sad to see the decline of Latino record stores like Yoly's, but that it will be interesting to see how Yolanda Jacobo and her family will face this challenge.

"She is a great leader with a great reputation in the community," Márquez-Peterson said.

For Yolanda Jacobo, it has been a long road. She remembers when she put her first makeshift record store at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet more than 30 years ago, and how she built her impressive collection of Mexican music that includes great but almost forgotten legends like María Luisa Landín, Antonio Badú and Maria Grever, the Mexican composer and vocalist who made it big during Hollywood's golden age.

For years, Yolanda Jacobo also had a radio show, where she played some of the old-time Mexican standards that, according to her, nurtured not only the ears, but the souls of Latino music lovers.

She said: "It grieves us that lately all of this has happened ... but for us there will be no retreat, no surrender."

Contact reporter Joseph Treviño at jtrevino@azstarnet.com or 807-8029.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: